Garrett Temple splits two Oklahoma City defenders last season

Garrett Temple thrilled to make return to Pelican State

by Jim Eichenhofer

How significant was the news in the Pelican State that 12th-year NBA veteran Garrett Temple was returning to his roots by joining the New Orleans roster? Even Louisiana’s governor tweeted about it.

“Welcome home, @GTemp17,” John Bel Edwards wrote Monday from his verified account. “It’s only right that a Temple plays ball in Louisiana. Your dad and the entire state are proud to have you back.”

Indeed, since learning 10 days ago that he was being traded to the Pelicans, Temple has been inundated by messages from people pleased that the Baton Rouge native and LSU product will play in the Smoothie King Center next season. Garrett’s father, Collis, was an LSU hoops standout in the early 1970s.

“It’s good to be back home in Louisiana,” Temple said during a Thursday press conference. “The response has been amazing, from old teammates, to guys I work out with at LSU now, family obviously is very excited, and just people I see every day. I have a lot of friends in the New Orleans area, a lot of family, cousins. Obviously my immediate family is very excited to be able to see me (play in person), at least 41 games a year.

“The reaction has been amazing. I’m still getting text messages from people I grew up with.”

As the 35-year-old continues to sift through texts from well-wishers, he’s also preparing for New Orleans training camp, which opens in late September. The 6-foot-5 guard/forward is known as a dependable, “3-and-D” role player who’s carved out a lengthy career in similar fashion to his new head coach, Willie Green (played in NBA from 2003-15).

“I know he’s a guy who was defensive-minded, a mid-range shooter,” Temple said of Green. “He’s the type of guy I kind of patterned my path after. What pundits call a ‘journeyman,’ but a guy who found a way to be wanted and needed on a team, to have a 12-year career. My thing coming into the league was to find a way to make my career longer and longer. A guy like Willie Green I kind of looked up to for that.”

After going undrafted in 2009, Temple had to scratch and claw his way into earning a permanent NBA job, starting his career on 10-day contracts with a handful of different teams. He said Thursday that he sometimes wondered what it would be like to play in New Orleans, but in those days he was just trying to latch on wherever he could.

“It’s something that definitely crosses your mind,” Temple said of playing in the Big Easy. “Early on, I was just trying to make my way, playing with whatever team I could be on. Then you get to a point where you can be a free agent and actually have a choice of options and teams to play on. New Orleans was definitely up there (as an option). I just wanted it to be the right situation.

“Coming back to New Orleans has always been something I thought about doing. It becoming a reality has been great. It’s gotten close maybe the last three or four years, but to have it happen right now at this point in my career is amazing.”

Although a significant portion of analysis on Temple’s addition to the Pelicans has focused on intangibles such as leadership and experience, with 632 career games under his belt, he also believes he can make on-court contributions. Temple helped Chicago rank No. 12 in defensive efficiency last season and averaged 7.6 points. Two seasons ago, he posted a career-high scoring average of 10.3 points with Brooklyn.

“I believe I have a lot to give on the court still,” Temple said. “You see what Chris Paul did last year at 36 (years old) and obviously what LeBron has done. I still feel like I have a lot of years left to give. If you see what I was able to do last year defensively with the Bulls, (and) I can space the floor with Zion and (Brandon Ingram) getting in the paint and Jonas (Valanciunas) on the block. Just being able to be that Swiss army knife. I can play a lot of positions. I think I can provide a lot for this team, in terms of what it needs right now. I’m excited to do that.”

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